How to teach common logical fallacies to students with Kialo Edu

For teachers who want to help students to become great critical thinkers, it is more important than ever to teach them how to identify and avoid logical fallacies. However, it can be challenging to incorporate this into lessons. After all, they are featured in very few curriculum standards and thus can be quite difficult to teach!

Mastering this skill is especially hard because, in real life, fallacies are subtle and often feel persuasive. But fear not, as you can use Kialo Edu to help your students practice thinking critically about fallacies to avoid flawed reasoning!

Common logical fallacies and how to teach them on Kialo Edu

While there is a whole list of logical fallacies out there, here are five common ones and how you can teach students to recognize and avoid them.

Appeal to emotion

What is an appeal to emotion?

What’s the difference between a great orator and a common swindler? Both make great use of powerful illustrations, vivid adjectives, and evoke intense emotions in their listeners. These tactics are part of appealing to an audience’s emotion and help stir the audience into action!

Appeals to emotion aren’t always a bad thing. Persuasive arguments need a bit of emotion to seem powerful and important, otherwise they feel dry and lifeless. The problem lies in using emotion as a substitute for good logic. Students need to know where one starts and the other ends.

How can I teach about an appeal to emotion on Kialo Edu?

Claims in a Kialo Edu discussion are meant to be short, no more than 2-3 sentences. There is even a character limit and a prompt to keep things snappy! In this structure, students have little space for rhetorical flourishes or excessive description.

Yet it still gives students an opportunity to compensate for the lack of emotional language by using sources and quotes to back up their claims. Students can link to relevant personal accounts, allowing their arguments to still be moving and powerful.

False cause

What is a false cause?

Correlation is not causation! This phrase has been used so often in political discussions that it can almost feel like a cliché. Yet, understanding the distinction between correlation and causation is an important skill for students to evaluate sources and understand how strong their actual arguments are. Thus, a false cause is when people assume that one variable causes another just because they are related.

It’s worth noting that, even if a source does not prove causation, a correlation can still be useful! Studies or sources that demonstrate some kind of correlation between two independent variables allow students to draw tentative conclusions about complex topics. The key word is tentative! Students need to be able to explain why the correlation is relevant.

For example, why is it unlikely that both variables are affected by a common cause? Why is it likely that they affect each other at all? After all, there are all kinds of funny and random correlations that exist!

How can I teach about a false cause on Kialo Edu?

Try doing a classroom discussion on Kialo Edu to train students to avoid this fallacy. You can use a topic from your syllabus, a topical issue, or a debate topic from one of our many templates.

In the discussion, encourage your students to read the sources others have added to their claims and stay on the hunt for false causes. Your students can debate in the comments of these claims the real implications of their evidence and whether it holds up to scrutiny. That way, your students can learn to refine their arguments through practice!

Slippery slope

What is a slippery slope?

Slippery slope arguments are those that argue against a proposal by claiming that it would inevitably justify or morph into some far worse outcome. By normalizing these new (but sometimes unfound) ideas, flawed or exaggerated reasoning can come to be seen as the truth!

How can I teach about a slippery slope on Kialo Edu?

A Kialo Edu discussion is already structured around chains of claims, which makes it perfect for making arguments that entail long-term complex changes. Yet, it gives a visual warning to students who may be straying close to making slippery slope arguments.

An example of a slippery slope for the argument "people should have a right to choose whether or not to smoke," with a long chain of arguments underneath with little explanation.

See a long chain of arguments with little further explanation under each pro? Probably a slippery slope. See a claim promising intense changes with little explanation as to how it is supposed to happen? Probably a slippery slope too! Good predictive arguments try not to see too far into the future: They use a small number of claims and give adequate analysis to each connecting argument.

Ad hominem

What is an ad hominem?

When people attack the character of their opponent instead of engaging with their ideas, they are committing an ad hominem fallacy. It seems obvious to most that insulting someone is not a good response to their arguments — it may feel almost silly to try teaching it! Despite this, people keep seeming to fall into this fallacy. How can that be?

The Sonderweg thesis is an example of an ad hominem argument, as it portrays Germans as naturally militaristic and violent, which is a claim with little backing.

The truth of the matter is that sometimes you do need to criticize the person making an argument as much as the argument itself. For example, if someone making a speech has a conflict of interest, doesn’t that diminish how persuasive their argument is? The problem we all have with this fallacy is not that it’s not well known: the problem is we don’t know when we fall into it!

How can I teach about an ad hominem on Kialo Edu?

Ask students to build a Kialo Edu discussion populated with claims made by different individuals and experts. Then, you can ask them to criticize those people’s arguments (and those of their fellow classmates!), so they can all come to agree on what a good personal criticism is. This also allows students to explore how personal biases affect not only the logic of one’s arguments, but the way they construct it and the perspectives they prioritize.

We hope that this has given you more confidence to tackle teaching logical fallacies to students. Indeed, incorporating fallacy training is also great for after-school debate clubs! If you use Kialo Edu to teach logical fallacies, please let us know on Twitter or Facebook, or at!

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